By Karine Kalantarian
Four Armenian soldiers who were taken prisoner by Azerbaijani forces last fall and released on Friday will be prosecuted in connection with their mysterious captivity, Armenia’s chief military prosecutor Gagik Jahangirian told RFE/RL on Tuesday.
The four servicemen were captured in two separate incidents and are now kept under arrest at a military hospital in Yerevan where they are undergoing medical examination.
Three of them, identified as Yeghia Hunanian, Gevorg Khlghatian and Aristakes Martirosian, were captured by Azerbaijani troops east of Nagorno-Karabakh on November 26. Jahangirian said they willingly crossed the heavily militaries frontline and “came into contact with the enemy.” That constituted a serious violation of the Armenian military’s rules for combat duty, he added.
The commander of the Nagorno-Karabakh Defense Army, Lieutenant-General Seyran Ohanian, likewise told reporters last week that the three soldiers illegally “communicated with Azerbaijanis” before being taken prisoner. Ohanian would not speculate on possible motives for their actions.
The soldiers’ parents, meanwhile, were relieved to see their sons repatriated with the help of the International Committee of Red Cross. “Thank God, all the boys were brought back,” Hunanian’s mother Mariam told RFE/RL.
The fourth serviceman, Harutiun Azatian, served in a military unit based in Vardenis, north-eastern Armenia, and ended up in captivity on September 23 under even more mysterious circumstances. Jahangirian said he has been charged with desertion.
Azatian, according to her mother, was drafted in 2003 despite having suffered from epilepsy since his birth. The chronic disease should have exempted him from compulsory military service in accordance with Armenian law.
“I submitted all medical papers to our local military commissariat [during the draft], but the boy underwent no examination by a psychologist or at a military hospital,” Siranush Azatian told RFE/RL.
She said the soldier’s commanders told her shortly after his disappearance that he sometimes behaved “in a strange manner.” She also claimed that after finding about Azatian’s illness Jahangirian promised to make sure that he is demobilized after the repatriation.
(Photolur photo: Gagik Jahangirian.)